I recently answered this question on Quora:
As a former employee at amazon with some success, here are my unfiltered advice:
- Don’t get offended or insulted easily — i.e. you need to develop thick skin. Otherwise, you’ll have a tough time at Amazon.
- Don’t be afraid of escalating — compared to other companies I worked at, I have never seen a company like Amazon that has such a strong culture of escalation — if I don’t hear from you soon enough, I’ll copy your manager, and then copy your manager’s manager. On one hand, this helps cultivate a culture of accountability and sense of urgency. On the other hand, it also generates unnecessary fire drills.
- You need to be metric driven, and test-validate-iterate your ideas. Don’t jump to conclusion without having data back you up.
- Manage dependencies — amazon is a confederation of startups. The teams have dependencies on each other. For you to get things done, make sure you identify dependencies early on and mange them proactively. This will save you a lot of time and enable you to get things done.
- Network internally — you’ll be likely to switch job within amazon during your first 18 months. Build relationships and build your brand inside amazon.
- Lower your expectation of your manager. It’s more likely that you’ll have multiple managers during your first 18 months. I had 5 different managers during my first 9 months. But I survived. And my case is not unique. Amazon is messy and chaotic inside. Lower your expectation and get used to it.